WhatsApp leads the way in digital accessibility in India- the only app to rank ‘highly accessible’ for persons with disabilities

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WhatsApp has been ranked India’s most accessible app for persons with disabilities, according to a recent report titled ‘Making the Digital Ecosystem Disabled Friendly,’ which evaluated the most popular apps across categories like messaging, online payments, transport, e-commerce and food delivery.

The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy along with I-Stem and Mission Accessibility conducted a first of its kind evidence-based evaluation of the accessibility of ten of the most widely used apps in India. WhatsApp emerged as the only app that was rated as ‘highly accessible’ based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which serve as the global benchmark for determining if, and to what extent, a website is disabled friendly. Other apps audited in the report include PhonePe, PayTM, Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon, Flipkart, Telegram, Uber and Ola.

The following table summarizes the total Number of accessibility violations identified for each of the ten apps across the Android and iOS platforms:

The top ten identified applications were rated as apps with ‘high accessibility’, ‘moderate accessibility’ and ‘low accessibility’ based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The thresholds for these categories are determined based on the number of WCAG success criteria at level A compliance level, and are set at <=30, 30-60 and >60. WhatsApp meeting over 60 was thus rated as the only app with ‘high accessibility’.

Co-author of the report, Rahul Bajaj, Senior Associate Fellow – Vidhi, Co-Founder – Mission Accessibility, practicing lawyer in the High Court of Delhi and the Supreme Court of India, said: “Apps and websites have enormous potential to empower the disabled. If they are not designed with their needs in mind, however, they can replicate the barriers the disabled otherwise face. With this report, we hope that more consumer apps emerge as ‘highly accessible’ as WhatsApp has and that this rating index serves as a positive impetus for developers to acknowledge these considerations and adopt adequate measures to improve accessibility in their digital products and services. I also think that it is no mere coincidence that the only app developer covered in the index which sent a representative for the report launch was WhatsApp and WhatsApp was the only app that was ranked as being highly accessible. It shows that accessibility does not happen automatically; it must be a function of proactive and thoughtful actions.”

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